Monday, December 2, 2013

Before and After

A few days before Thanksgiving, my kids asked me if I had a picture from last Thanksgiving. As I looked back at pictures on my computer, I came across one that was taken on Thanksgiving 2012. The change from last year to this year was astounding. My kids both said "WOW!" The next day, I decided to recreate the picture from last year. I mistakenly put the kids on the wrong sides, but it didn't matter. When I put the two pictures side by side, it made me want to cry to see that all my hard work has truly paid off. Here's the picture:

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Lifestyle Transformation

Hi! It's me! No, I didn't die. I just got sidetracked by a lot of other things and forgot about my blog. I've been keeping everyone on Facebook updated to the changes that have been occurring in my life this year, but I totally forgot about posting it here. Sorry about that!

Back in September 2012, I began walking with my kids as part of their physical education class. I use a cyber school to homeschool my kids, and that was the first year they sent a curriculum for gym. Each of my kids got a pedometer and the first thing they wanted the kids to do was see how many steps they could take in 20 min. From there, it was how long does it take to walk a mile. The goal I believe was to do a mile in 20 min. At the time, I was 240 lbs and was disgusted by my weight. I wanted to lose weight, but I never stayed motivated long enough to do anything about it. I figured "I can walk!" and I began walking with the kids every day. It was exciting to try and beat the time we had had the day before, but September and October quickly passed and it became too cold to continue walking outside. We stopped walking, but I was happy that I had lost 9 lbs and I was able to maintain that weight loss through the holidays. The last Sunday in December, our pastor gave a sermon on setting goals. I came home and immediately knew what my goal was going to be. I was 231 lbs on Jan. 1, 2013, but I decided I wanted to lose 100 lbs from my starting point of 240 lbs. I didn't want to set myself up to fail and I had no idea how quickly the weight would come off, so my long range goal was to lose 100 lbs and my short term goal for 2013 was to lose 50 lbs. I also included other goals to help me reach that goal.

One goal was to increase my water intake. I was NOT a water drinker. I was a soda drinker. I would drink 2-3 cans of soda a day. I knew I was suppose to drink eight 8 oz glasses of water a day, so my initial goal was to drink 5 glasses of water a day. I used a glass that held about 10 oz, so I wasn't too far off from the 64 oz I should be drinking. I later learned that you should drink half of your body weight in ounces of water every day! I should have been drinking almost 120 oz of water a day....TWICE what I was drinking! I'm actually glad I didn't know that at the time because I know it would have been overwhelming for me. I celebrated each day that I was able to drink 5 glasses of water because I knew it was a small, but necessary victory for me in my journey to become healthier. A few months ago, in order for me to make sure I drink all my water, I decided to fill an 80 oz pitcher and a 20 oz glass with water each night. When all that water was gone, I knew I had drank all my water for the day. I always made sure to fill those up each night so I could start each day with cold water.

Another goal was to decrease the amount of soda I was drinking. I aimed for drinking just one can of soda a day. I then said that maybe I could reduce that to one a week and possibly one a month. I was afraid of getting headaches, which is what usually happened whenever I cut back on soda before. The Lord blessed me and I had NO headaches at all when I cut back on the soda. Eventually, I cut so far back on soda that I can easily go a month without drinking any soda. It actually seems too sweet for me so I usually only have 1/2 a can when I do decide to drink some.

A third goal was to exercise at least 30 min. every day. A friend of mine who I reconnected with on Facebook had just lost 100 lbs and when I posted my goals for this year, she graciously offered to send me some DVDs that I could use to workout with during the winter months when it was too cold to walk outside. A few days later, I received 3 Walk Away the Pounds DVDs in the mail: 1 mile, 2 miles, and 3 miles. I decided I would do the 1 mile workout for the entire month of January, then move to the 2 miles for February, and 3 miles in March. Yes, my kids did the workouts with me during the week. They took the weekends off, but I did my workout 7 days a week. I continued to work out 7 days a week for the first 6 months. Then I decided that I probably had developed a strong enough habit of knowing that I needed to exercise and could take 1 day off a week. I chose to take Sundays off from exercising. When I first began, it took everything within me to complete that 15 min. 1 mile workout. I had to keep telling myself "I can do this! I won't quit! Keep going!". My face would get bright red and my kids constantly kept asking me if I was ok. In order to get my goal of 30 min. of exercise in a day, I had to do an additional 15 min. of exercise, so I did push ups, crunches, lunges, squats, jumping jacks, etc. Once I moved on to the 2 mile workout, that was 30 min. in length so I didn't need to do those additional exercises; although I do still do them since I need to work on tightening my abdominals! By March, I moved on to the 45 min. 3 mile workout. When the weather got warmer, I started walking outside. I slowly increased the distance I walked and I also worked on increasing my speed. As people took notice to the changes in my body and asked what I was doing, they couldn't believe that it was due to walking.....and eating differently.

I never wanted to be one of those people who counted calories, but I realized I needed to change my eating habits and not just start exercising if I truly wanted to lose weight and be able to maintain it. I needed a lifestyle change, not a diet. I joined because it made it so easy to keep track of the calories I was eating. I initially cut my caloric intake to 1200 plus whatever I burned off doing exercise. It is important to eat the calories you turn because you can easily put your body into starvation mode if you don't. Since 1200 is the fewest number of calories you should be taking in on a daily basis, it was very important for me to eat whatever I burned off doing exercise in order to ensure that I lost weight. Recently, I have increased my daily calorie intake to 1600 plus whatever I burn doing exercise. I did this after realizing that my metabolism was probably faster now and my body wanted more food and could handle having more. It was actually an accident that I realized this. I had been on a plateau for about 2 months. I was frustrated and was wondering why I wasn't losing when I was eating right and exercising. I remember the day was a Sunday, my day off from exercising. We went over to my parents' house for dinner like we usually do. We had pizza and I felt guilty because I ate more than I usually do, and then I ate ice cream for dessert. The next day, the scale went down for the first time in 2 months! That night, we went out to eat and I chose what I thought was a healthy choice...a salad. I just about fell over when I came home and looked it up and discovered my salad was 1300 calories!!! ACK! I had again went over my 1200 calorie/day goal in just one meal! The next morning, the scale went down again! That's when I realized my body was telling me to feed it more because it could handle it! LOL!

I know a lot of people will cut things like flour, sugar, carbs, etc. when they are trying to lose weight. I knew that if I told myself I couldn't have any chocolate, I would not want to stick to the program. I also saw a problem with cutting things out of my diet other than running the risk of overindulging if you do allow yourself to eat it once. If my body wasn't use to eating something for months, it might not be able to digest it properly once I add it back in and I could gain weight quickly. I decided what was most important for me to learn was portion control. I didn't cut out anything from my diet. I cut back on sodas and the amount of chocolate and other sweets I was eating, but I still allowed myself to have correct portions! "Everything in moderation" was a motto I tried to follow. When people ask what I am doing to lose weight, they are shocked when I tell them "walking, and eating proper portions". I love when someone says "You lost weight walking??! I can do that!" Yes! You can!! If I can do it, then anyone can do it!

There's no magic pill to lose weight. Dedication and hard work is what it takes! Yes, exercise can be hard work, but you can also make it fun! I love trying to beat my time each time I go out for a walk. Back in June, I decided to see if I could jog one block. I was THRILLED when I reached the end of that block! I started jogging one block every mile. Later, I increased it to jogging every other block. Finally, I started jogging as much as I could before walking and I try to only walk a block at the most before jogging more. I have been able to jog over a mile straight before walking, and it feels AWESOME to know I am probably more fit now at 44 than I have ever been. I say that because even though I weigh more than I did many years ago, I am exercising 6 days a week most of the time and that is something I have never done!

So, you may be wondering how I have done with my goals and how much I have lost so far. I now exercise at least an hour a day. My kids didn't walk with me during the summer, so I had to cut back to walking 3 miles when they started to walk with me again in September. I tried to get them to jog every so often, but they can't keep up with me when I jog. They have a hard time keeping up with me when I am walking! I easily have left them in the dust when I went full out, but I decided it was more important to instill in them the importance of daily exercise than wearing them out trying to force them to go faster than they were ready for. I slowly increased the distance they were walking to 4 miles. Eventually I hope they will be willing to do 5 miles. I usually walk 5 miles a day, but about 2 weeks ago I decided to see if I could do 10 miles. It took me 2 hours 9 min., but I finished 10 miles of jogging and walking! AMAZING!! I increased my daily water intake to 1/2 of my body weight. The amount I have to drink each day has decreased as the weight came off, but I almost always have all my water finished by the end of the day. Yes, there are still times I don't get it all in, but I do my best to make sure I am drinking even when I don't feel thirsty. As of this morning, I am 160 lbs. That means I have lost a total of 80 lbs (71 of which have been lost since Jan. 1, 2013). I am 20 lbs away from my initial long term goal of losing 100 lbs! I will NOT give up until I reach this goal! I have since decided that I will probably try to lose an additional 10 - 20 lbs. I would love to be able to reach 120 lbs and be able to say I am officially half the person I use to be. Here are some pictures to show you my progress: The first is from Sept. 2012, when I was at my heaviest. I am on the left and my cousin is on the right. The next two pictures are of me on Jan. 1, 2013, the first official day of my lifestyle transformation. The last two pictures were taken last month on October 20, 2013.

I haven't had any surgery. I haven't taken any pills. In June, I was taken off all my blood pressure medication that I was on for 2 years because I no longer have high blood pressure. My ankles use to swell every day, but I don't deal with that at all anymore. The changes you see are from me walking (and now jogging) every day and eating proper portion sizes. When I was writing down my goals back on Jan. 1, I also said that if I could inspire just ONE person, this would all be worth it. God has blessed me ABUNDANTLY because I can not count the number of people who have said to me "You are an inspiration!" or "You've inspired me!" Since it is now November and the weather has gotten colder, I have again begun doing the Walk Away the Pounds workouts by Leslie Sansone. I put on a 5 mile workout and do the whole thing, but my kids stop after mile 4. You can find these workouts at Wal-Mart as well as on youtube. I find it easiest to workout first thing in the morning. I get up, put on my workout clothes, do my workout, then take my shower and get ready for the day. If you are tired of being overweight and want to make a lifestyle change, write down your goals. Be determined that NOTHING will stop you from doing this! You can do this! Never give up! Keep pressing on! You may have a bad day here and there, but don't let it stop you! Every day is a new day, a new beginning, and a fresh start. Don't think about yesterday. Focus on today. The change in the way you look and feel is worth it! If I can do this, anyone can do this!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Balaam and His Donkey

In Numbers 22, we read about Balaam. Moabite princes came to him with a message from Balak, the king of Moab. He wanted Balaam to put a curse on a group of people that came from out of Egypt. Balaam asked God what he should do, and God told him not to go with the messengers and not to put a curse on the people because they were blessed. Balaam told the princes "Go back to you own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you." (verse 13). Balak didn't take no for an answer. He sent more princes to Balaam. This time the message from Balak included these words: "I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say." (verse 17). Balaam's response to the princes in verse 18 sounded commendable. Balaam said "Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God." He then told the princes to stay the night so that he could find out what else the Lord would tell him. That night, God told Balaam to go with them, but only do what He tells him.

The next morning, Balaam left to go with the princes, and God was very angry when he went. Why was God angry with Balaam? God had told Balaam to go, and now He was angry with him? It doesn't make sense, does it? Yes, it does. Balaam had been told once that he was not to go and put a curse on these people because they were blessed. When more money and prestige was offered to him the second time, Balaam got greedy. He decided to ask God again what he should do because he was hoping God had changed His mind. God knew what was in Balaam's heart: greed. That is what made Him angry! When God gives you an answer, don't keep asking the same question trying to see if He'll change His mind. Do what God tells you to do the first time.

The angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose Balaam. Balaam could not see him, but his donkey could! When Balaam's donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn, he turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back onto the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. Balaam's donkey again saw the angel and pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. Again, Balaam beat his donkey. Finally, the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn. When Balaam's donkey saw the angel, she laid down. Balaam was angry and beat her with his staff. Why was Balaam so angry with his donkey? She was hindering his progress! He was blinded by his greed and wanted to get where he was going as soon as possible. He couldn't see what was blocking his way and he didn't realize he would have died if his donkey had kept going. All he cared about was his donkey wasn't doing what he wanted her to do. Are we ever so blinded by what we want that we don't see that there are warning signs letting us know we are headed down a wrong road? Make sure your eyes are always focused on following God so that you can see where you are going and what is ahead.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stop Being Idle

Paul had some strong words in 2 Thessalonians 3 about idleness. In verse 6, he told people to stay away from every brother who is idle. In verse 10, he reminded them of his rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." In verse 11, he urged those who were idle to settle down and earn the bread they eat. In verse 14, Paul said "If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed." To those who were not idle, Paul told them to "never tire of doing what is right" (verse 13).

I wonder what Paul would think of all the people in America who have chosen to live off the system. There are many people who are on Welfare and do nothing to try to get a job. They continue to have kids in order to get more money. I know there are people who deserve to be on Welfare or need the assistance they get from WIC. I'm not talking about people who work but don't bring home enough money so they seek some assistance in buying food their family needs. I'm not slamming people who are on Welfare because they lost their job and need help until they can find another one, or those who have some sort of medical condition that prevents them from working. I'm talking about the ones who are perfectly capable of working, but choose to not work because they are lazy and know the government will give them money to live off of. There are many people who work hard and yet are struggling to make ends meet, but they can't get assistance because they have a job and "earn too much". People need to take responsibility and get a job! I'm aware that jobs are scarce, but there are jobs out there. If you don't have a job, you shouldn't be concerned about earning minimum wage. It's still a job and money coming in to help pay the bills! If someone has a minimum wage job and still needs to be on Welfare, I don't have a problem with that. I think most people wouldn't look down on anyone who needs the extra help. I don't want to be judging all those who are on Welfare because I don't know everyone's story. It's hard though when you do know the story and can see that people are milking the system to not feel like something needs to be said and done to revamp the system. We need to stop helping those who are just being idle. We need to get them off the free ride they've been on for so long and make them get out there and earn the bread they eat. If you are one of the millions of hardworking people in our world, good for you! Never tire of doing good! You will be rewarded one day for all your work, and it will be well worth it!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lead By Serving

2 Thessalonians 2:8 says "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth  and destroy by the splendor of His coming." When I read that this morning, I was amazed again at how awesome the power of our God is. I can just picture Jesus giving one breath, sort of like the way you blow out a candle, and the lawless one is overthrown. When He returns, just the splendor of seeing Jesus coming in the clouds will be enough to overthrow the lawless one. We serve an awesome and powerful God! Make sure you are on the winning side.

I then read Mark 10:35-45, which begins with James and John telling Jesus that they want Him to do for them whatever they ask. Every time I have read this, the first thing that comes to my mind is "Wow! That was very bold of them to TELL Jesus that they wanted Him to do whatever they asked. Who do they think they are?" Yet, Jesus didn't condemn them for saying that to Him. He asked them, "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus wants us to come to Him with our requests! I'm equally amazed at the gall of James and John when they tell Jesus that they want to sit at His left and right when He was in His glory (ruling His kingdom). Did they really think they deserved to hold those high positions?! Apparently they did! You'd think that Jesus would have really told them that they had a big problem with their egos or something, but He didn't condemn them at all. He simply told them that He could not grant their request. When the rest of the disciples heard about this, it wasn't surprising to hear that they were indignant with James and John. This is when Jesus says "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43b-45)

We need to live our lives the way Jesus did. If anyone deserved to have people serving Him, it was Jesus! He is the King of Kings after all! Yet, He came to earth to serve others, and to die for our sins!  Some people get wrapped up in wanting the power and prestige that comes with being a leader. To be a good leader, you need to be willing to serve others. Pray for those who serve under you, that they will have a servant's heart and be willing to help you do your job. Pray for God's guidance and admit that you can't do it on your own. Listen to ideas that others may have and bring those ideas to the Lord as well. Follow Jesus' example and you will succeed at being a leader.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pay Back

2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 says "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels." I love these two verses! It is a comfort to see that God will not only pay back those who caused us trouble, but He will also give us relief. It would be nice to stop the verse at the beginning of verse 7 and not include that last sentence. To know that this will happen when Jesus returns may be a bit of a disappointment to some people who really want God to handle the situation right away. I think that is what makes God so just! He gives people time to repent. I know it may seem unfair to think that someone can live a horrible life, but they can still go to heaven if they confess their sins and ask Jesus into their heart before they die. For those who may have caused people a lot of trouble, they may have to deal with a lot of guilt after becoming a Christian. Yes, God forgives them for their sins; but that doesn't mean it is easy to forget them. If you've been hurt by someone who later becomes a Christian, you can help that person tremendously by forgiving them for what they did to you and forgetting about it. It's important to remember that you weren't perfect either before you became a Christian, and you still aren't! Wouldn't you want someone to forgive you when you mess up? When going through trouble, I try to keep my eyes on Jesus and know that He will see me through it. When we persevere, we earn rewards up in heaven. Instead of wishing harm on your enemies, pray for them to come to know the Lord too. Don't try to retaliate against those who harm you or give you trouble. If they don't repent, they have the worse punishment imaginable coming: separation from God for all eternity. All you need to worry about is that you are doing all you can to live the life God wants you to live.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Words to Live By

I Thessalonians 5 is full of verses that give great advice for Christians to follow. Some of them can be difficult to do, but what an impact we could make in our world if all Christians chose to live by these verses and do what they say. Here's what Paul had to say regarding how Christians should live:

1. Encourage one another and build each other up (verse 11)
2. Respect those who work hard, who are over you in the Lord, and who admonish you (verse 12)
3. Live in peace with each other (verse 13)
4. Warn those who are idle (verse 14)
5. Encourage the timid (verse 14)
6. Help the weak (verse 14)
7. Be patient with everyone (verse 14)
8. Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong (verse 15)
9. Always try to be kind to everyone (verse 15)
10. Be joyful always (verse 16)
11. Pray continually (verse 17)
12. Give thanks in all circumstances (verse 18)
13. Do not put out the Spirit's fire (verse 19)
14. Do not treat prophecies with contempt (verse 20)
15. Test everything. Hold onto the good. (verse 21)
16. Avoid every kind of evil (verse 22)

The last two verses are the ones I really noticed today: Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil. We could avoid a lot of heartache if we learned to test everything. Just because something sounds good, doesn't mean we should do it. We need to learn to bring everything to God in prayer. Listen to what He says. If He gives you affirmation, then go ahead and do it. If He says no or wait, then don't do it! If you stay away from things that you know are not right, you'll save yourself a lot of trouble. Let's all strive to do the things on this list. These are amazing words to live by!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Death and Life

I Thessalonians 4:13-14 says "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." I have often wondered how people who don't believe in God or heaven and hell are able to handle it when someone they love dies. It's always hard when someone you love passes away, but it makes it a little easier for a Christian who knows their loved one was also a Christian. We don't need to grieve as those who have no hope. We can celebrate the fact that our loved one is now in heaven with God. I hold onto the hope that I will see my loved ones again either when I die or when the Lord returns. It's too late once you die to make things right with God. It's sad when someone waits too long and dies without knowing the Lord. Don't let that happen to you! Ask God into your heart and accept His gift of eternal life in heaven! Then tell everyone you know and love so that you all have the promise of being together again one day.

I John 2:6 says "Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did." It can be intimidating to think we need to walk as Jesus did if we claim to be a Christian. Jesus was perfect. How can we be perfect? It's impossible! The thing to look at though is this: Jesus lived as a human here on earth. He experienced everything we do. He understands everything we are going through, and He is willing to help us! You don't need to do things on your own. You CAN walk as Jesus did because He will help you!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Give It to the Lord

I Thessalonians 3 tells about how Paul longed to return to the people of Thessalonica. He was afraid that they had been tempted and fallen away from their faith and serving the Lord, making his efforts "useless" (verse 5). Have you ever felt that what you were doing was useless because you weren't getting the results you wanted? Some Christians get discouraged when it seems their prayers aren't being answered. They think it is useless to continue praying. Paul sent Timothy to see how the Thessalonians were doing, and he was thrilled when he received Timothy's report. It made him pray even more for them and increased his desire to see them again. If you are struggling with the feeling that your prayers are useless because they aren't being answered or you are trying to win someone to the Lord and are frustrated that they aren't changing, give it all to God and leave it in His hands. Continue praying and doing what you can, but have faith that God is at work.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." This verse made me see that we are human and we will get angry, but we need to be careful how we react when we get angry. We should not sin because we are angry. We need to watch what we say and how we say it. We should not let the sun go down while we are still angry. We need to do everything we can to resolve the problem before we go to bed. That may mean staying up way past the time you normally go to bed in order to work through the problem. Sometimes it may not be possible to solve the problem, but you need to do everything you can to not go to bed while you are still angry. When you remain angry, it gives the devil a foothold. He wants us to hold onto our anger because that will lead to resentment, bitterness, and hatred. We need to make sure we get rid of that anger as quickly as possible. Sometimes all you can do is give it to the Lord and let Him work in your heart and in the heart of the other person, but you need to be willing to forgive that person and trust that God will heal the hurt. Don't hold onto your hurt and anger. Let it go, and God will do the rest.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Who or What is First in Your Life?

I Thessalonians 2:8 says "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." Do you reach out of your comfort zone and really get to know others? Do you allow others to get to really know you? As Christians, we should be reaching out to others. They should be able to see the real us, and we should be be thrilled to share the gospel with them. How we live our lives will greatly determine whether or not we are effective witnesses. We need to truly love others, regardless of how they live their lives. We can't tell others about how much God loves them if WE don't show them that same kind of love! When God is first in our life, we should want others to know Him too. When God is first, we will be effective witnesses because we will be living our life in a way that is pleasing to God and others will see that there is something different about us.

Joshua 24:15 "....choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve....But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." People choose all sorts of things to be their "god". TV, internet, money, food, drugs, and alcohol are just a few of the things some people put first in their lives. What is first in your life? What do you spend the most time with? God needs to be first in our lives. That may seem strange for some people because they think our spouse or our kids should be #1. For Christians, as harsh as it may seem, our family and kids shouldn't be first. God alone needs to hold that place. We should give Him the first of our day. When you wake up, spend time with Him by reading your Bible and praying. That sets the tone for the rest of the day. Other things fall into place and things go just a bit smoother when we put God first. If you haven't already done so, choose to put God first in your life and see what a difference it makes in your life!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Faith, Hope, and Love

I Thessalonians 1:3 "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ." What an inspiration the people of Thessalonica are. Paul says in verse 8a that "The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia - your faith in God has become known everywhere." Oh to have that kind of faith! I would love to be known and remembered by many people solely because of my faith! How did the people of Thessalonica accomplish such an amazing accomplishment that they were known EVERYWHERE because of their faith in God? This is where we go back to looking at verse 3. Their work came about and was accomplished because of their faith. They did things because they were prompted to because of their love. They endured through difficulties and kept pressing on because of their hope in the Lord. Did you see it? Everything they did was because of their faith, hope, and love. Our life will have a huge impact on those around us when we make sure everything we say and do is said and done out of faith, hope, and love.

Luke 15:11-24 tells the parable of the lost son and his father's reaction to him when he returned home. When the son finally came to his senses, he hoped his dad would make him like one of the hired men. He didn't have enough faith that his father would embrace him again as a son, but he did realize he needed to go back home and apologize. The father hoped his son would one day return home. The father had faith that his son would apologize and ask to come back home. The father loved his son so much that he ran to him, embraced and kissed him, and threw a party when his son returned home. The father displayed faith, hope, and love. When someone hurts you, do have faith that God can work on their heart and cause them to change? Do you also turn to the Lord to ensure that your heart isn't hardened by the pain? Do you hope that they will come to apologize? Do you show them love and quickly forgive them? We need to make sure that no matter what happens in our life, we always display faith, hope, and love.

Seasoned with Salt

To those who may be following my blog daily, I apologize for not writing yesterday. I had to sing on worship team at church and had to leave at 8 am, so I didn't have time to write it before I left. I simply forgot when I got home that I hadn't written on my blog. So I will post two today, this is the one from yesterday.

Colossians 4:6 says "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." I always feel that sinking feeling of guilt when I see verses with the word "always" in them. That is such a hard thing to live up to! This verse says our conversations should always be full of grace. Well, it wasn't hard for me to admit that I do not succeed at this! It certainly gave me a huge goal to strive toward! As I thought about this verse, I thought about the phrase "seasoned with salt" and what that had to do with my conversations. Salt adds flavor to your food. It is also used in preservation of food. People often talk about what we say is "food for thought". So, my words should leave a good taste in the mouths of those who hear what I am saying. If my words are going to have a lasting impact, then I want what I say to be full of grace! I don't want to say nasty things and have them being remembered for years. This verse really helped to put things into perspective and have given me a new desire to watch what I say and how I say it. I want everything that comes out of my mouth to be full of grace and seasoned with salt. Before you say something, remember that your words will be remembered. Make sure your words are full of grace and leave a good taste in the mouth of the person you are saying them to. Don't let words come out of your mouth that you will regret later.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's For the Lord

There are two verses in Colossians 3 that are very similar, yet they are a little different. They both caught my attention this morning when I was doing devotions. Verse 17 says "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Verse 23 says "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men".

The first thing that caught my attention in verse 17 was the words "whether in word or deed". If you've been following my blog, you know that God has been dealing with me and I have been working on watching what I say and how I say it, especially when I'm frustrated or upset. I thought of the fact that my words are suppose to be said "in the name of the Lord Jesus" and they should "give thanks to God the Father". Well, I know God wouldn't choose to say the things I do and they certainly don't give thanks to Him. So why should I allow myself to say things that don't please Him? This verse obviously was God's way of showing me yet again that my words don't only have the power to build up or tear down people here on earth, but they also are heard by God and can cause Him to be pleased or displeased. I don't want to displease the Lord, so I will watch what I say as well as what I do in order that everything I say and do pleases Him.

Verse 23 doesn't talk about our words, but it did deal with what we do and how it should be done. It reminds us to remember that everything we do should be done wholeheartedly. We should always give 100% and strive to do the job to the very best of our ability. We shouldn't do this to please the person who we are doing the job for, and it doesn't matter whether we are going to be paid for the job or whether we are just doing it as a favor for another person. We should do everything with all our heart because we are doing it for God and want to please Him.

My dad recently had surgery on his back, and my mom has a lot of health issues of her own. It is hard for them to ask for help; so when my dad called yesterday and asked if I would pick up a few things, I was glad to help. I went to the one store to pick up the sodas they wanted which were on sale. I then ran to Wal-mart to get the other items. I forgot my cell phone and was only able to buy a few of the items on their list because I needed to make sure some of the things would be ok and other things they didn't have there. This morning, I wound up going to 4 more stores because I was trying to buy them all the items they asked for. The one place was out of my way, but I knew my mom had told me that is where they normally get two of the items. Since I couldn't find those two items in any of the other places I went, I thought about just telling them I couldn't find those items and maybe someone who lives out that way could pick those two items up for them. Instead, I drove past the road that led to my parents and went to the next town to try and get those items. I found the one, but they were out of the other. I spoke with the pharmacist and he said he'd order it and they'd get it in on Monday. I'm not sure if I'll run all the way over there to get it on Monday or whether someone else will get it, but I was pleased that I was able to find everything on the list and have the other item ordered so it can be bought in a few days. I then went to Subway to buy lunch for my parents as well as my kids and I, and we took everything over to my parents house and ate lunch with them. My kids and I then helped do a few chores that needed to be done. I could have chosen to not go out of my way to buy everything. I could have chosen to drop the items off and leave. I could have grumbled and complained about driving to all those different stores trying to find the items they needed. I could have, but I didn't. I chose to go out of my way and I chose to have a good attitude about it not just because they are my parents, but because I had a job to do and I wanted to give it 100% so that God would be pleased. It felt good to give 100% for another reason too: I was being an example to my kids. They didn't complain about doing a few chores for grandma and pappy. They did their jobs with a good attitude too, and I was proud of them.

The next time you have a job to do, whether or not you are being paid, do it with your whole heart. Don't grumble or complain. Don't try to find shortcuts. Do it to the very best of your ability and be thankful. God will reward us all one day for everything we do. Remember that our words and our deeds need to be done as unto the Lord.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Have Faith in God and in Where He Puts You

Colossians 2:6-7 says "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." When you receive Jesus into your heart, you do so by faith. You have faith that He is real. You have faith that He has saved you from your sins and you will go to heaven when you die. We continue to have faith throughout our Christian walk. We have faith that what the Bible says is true. When we take the Bible as fact, we become more rooted in Christ and our faith continues to grow. I am thankful that I was raised in a Christian home. It made it easy for me to believe and have faith in God and the Bible. I saw how my family was different from other families who didn't believe. I can see how it might be harder for someone who wasn't raised in a Christian home to have faith in God and the Bible, especially if they were raised hearing that God and the Bible are made up, a fairy tale, or total fiction. As Christians, we have every reason to be overflowing with thankfulness that a simple thing like having faith can help us so much in life and has eternal rewards.

I have read I Corinthians 12:12-31 many times in my life. I have heard a few sermons preached on it too. Today, I was immediately attracted to I Corinthians 12:18 when I read it. It says, "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be." I knew that we are all given gifts and one person's gift is not more important than anyone else's gift. When I read this verse today, it was a neat reminder that God puts each and every one of us in the place where He wants us. I used my gifts and talents at a church for many years. I grew up in that church and attended there for most of my life. Ten years ago, my husband and I felt that it was time to find a different church. This verse made me realize anew that God knew the work He was doing in the church we now attend and He decided that my gifts and talents were needed in this church. I am so very thankful that God led us to the church we now attend! When you feel God calling you to a new job or a new church, don't be afraid. Be excited and have faith because God is putting you exactly in the place where He wants you to be.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Live Your Life to Please God

Colossians 1:10-12 says "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." What an amazing prayer Paul had for the Colossians! Oh to live a life worthy of the Lord! Oh to please Him in every way! I think that is the desire of every Christian, but we don't always feel like we measure up to doing that. Paul listed the things we should do in order to achieve this.

1) Bear fruit in every good work. If we have a bad attitude while doing something, then there is a good chance we won't bear fruit. If we are doing good works for all the wrong reasons (to be noticed, to be praised) or if we expect to be rewarded for the good we do, then we won't be bearing good fruit. We should do whatever God tells us to do and have a good attitude about it. We shouldn't expect a reward here on earth. We should do things simply so that others can see Christ in us.

2) Grow in the knowledge of God. Daily devotions are vital! God is pleased when we read our Bible and pray each day. Why? He enjoys when we spend time with Him! He wants to be able to teach us new things, but He needs us to read our Bible so that He can speak to us through it. He wants to talk to us on a daily basis, but He can't do that if we aren't willing to talk to Him and listen to Him.

3) Be strengthened by God's power. We are so much stronger when we turn to God and seek to do things in His power than when we try to do things on our own. It's amazing how much more we can accomplish when we know He is with us and will help us do whatever it is we are called to do.

4) Have great endurance and patience. When we know God is with us, we should know there is nothing we can't do. Life gets difficult at times, but we need to keep our eyes on the finish line and press on! We should never give up when life gets hard or we feel that God isn't answering our prayers. We need to have endurance and just keep going because we have the assurance that God is with us and helping us. We need to have patience when God doesn't answer our prayers right away because we know that He will answer them in His time and in His perfect will. He knows what is best and we just need to keep having faith in Him and trust Him.

5) Joyfully give thanks God always. Yes, life can be hard; but we always have a reason to be joyful and give thanks to God. We have been promised eternal life! We have an inheritance waiting for us! We will see Christ one glorious day! It may be hard to be thankful when you are struggling with an illness or loss of a loved one, but you need to remember that this world is not your home! When you focus on all that God has done for you as well as the promises of all that awaits you, you won't be able to help being joyful and finding reasons to give thanks to God.

In John 16:33 Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus didn't say we might have trouble. He said we WILL have trouble. There is sin in this world and satan is very real. Satan is always trying to discourage people and draw them away from Christ. Christians aren't promised never to go through difficult times. Immediately after Jesus told the disciples that they would have trouble, He said "But take heart!" Nowadays people would probably say "Cheer up!" or "Don't worry!" Why? Because Jesus has overcome the world! Jesus is always with us, in the good times and the bad. We know when our life here on earth is over, we have the promise of heaven waiting for us because of what He did on the cross. We have no reason to be afraid of the difficult times because we know God will always be there and will never leaves us or forsake us.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

He is Near

Philippians 4:5 says "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." As a mom of two who teaches her kids at home, I struggle on a daily basis with being gentle. I get frustrated when my kids don't listen when I'm talking to them or trying to teach them something. I get upset when they do things they've been told not to do, or don't do things they have been told to do. I get angry when they talk back to me and/or argue with me. This verse really struck me today. The words "The Lord is near" made me realize that He is always with me. He hears everything I say and everything I think. Is He pleased when He hears the way I talk to my kids when I'm frustrated, upset, or angry? Sadly, I realized the answer is no. My words are not always loving and kind, and my heart was grieved when I think of what a poor example I am to my kids. I asked God to forgive me and to help me respond gently to my kids ALL the time. I then went on to do the devotional in "Our Daily Bread".

The first two verses I read in my devotional made me smile. Isaiah 55:6-7 says "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon." Did you see the words that made me smile? "He is near." The two different passages I read today were in totally different locations: one was in the New Testament and the other in the Old Testament; yet they both reminded me (and now you) that the Lord is near. Knowing that the Lord is near can be quite a comfort when we are going through a difficult time; but sometimes we forget that He is near when we are behaving in a way we shouldn't be. When we are tempted to say something that isn't nice or do something that we know is wrong, we need to stop and remember that the Lord is near. He sees and hears everything. Our words and actions should always be gentle, loving, and kind. Thankfully when we mess up, our God has mercy on us when we turn to Him and admit that we messed up and/or sinned. He will freely pardon and forgive us. I am so very thankful for His mercy and forgiveness! Aren't you?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What Truly Matters

Philippians 3:8 says "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ". There are many people who put a lot of time and effort into trying to accomplish great things. They want to be remembered for what they did, and they are very proud of all their accomplishments. I'm not saying it's wrong to be proud of what you've accomplished, but we need to remember that what we think is important is probably not the same as what God finds important. What we accomplish here on earth is not going to get us into heaven. What we should be focused on is our relationship with Jesus! That is what truly matters and should be the most important thing in our lives. When we focus on our relationship with Jesus, other things in our life fall into place. Of course, some things in our life may wind up in the garbage because they really are not good for us. Other things we will see are really unimportant. We should strive to accomplish things that have eternal rewards rather than earthly rewards because those are the things that truly matter.

James 5:13 "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." This morning, my cousin Lorri came to my mind. She lost her husband suddenly a few months ago. A month later, she was diagnosed with cancer. Yesterday, my parents informed me that she was in the hospital because she was in a lot of pain. Due to the cancer treatments, she doesn't have much of an immune system; so when she got sick, she couldn't fight off the germs. Of course, I knew to pray for her when the Lord brought her to my mind because I know that "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16b). What I didn't think to do was to be thankful that I was healthy. It's easy to remember to pray when I or someone I love is sick or going through a difficult time. It's easy to be thankful when God answers our prayers. What I was reminded of today was to be thankful and give God praise that I am healthy and not going through any major difficulties. No matter what our circumstances, we should always be able to think of at least one thing to thank God for. Even when God's answer to our prayers is "no" or "wait", we can be thankful that He hears our prayers and is answering them according to His infinite wisdom because He always knows what is best. Let's remember to be thankful for the small things as well as the big things.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Watch Your Attitude!

Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." When you are in ministry, it can be so easy to get frustrated when it seems no one appreciates what we do. It is normal to like receiving compliments, but we shouldn't do things and expect to get a compliment. We need to remember that no one ministry is more important than another. We also need to remember that God gives us all the ability to do a certain task or ministry, so we should never think we are better than someone else! There is usually more than one person in each ministry. It would be pretty vain of someone to think the entire ministry depends on just one person, or that one person is more important than the others in their ministry. Your ministry will be much more successful in God's eyes and more effective if you remain humble, not think that you are better than someone else, and not expect compliments from others.

Job 12:9 "Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?" Job's friends assumed that he was being punished by God because he had sinned. They were quick to judge, yet they weren't saying things that Job didn't already know. He even went as far to tell them that even the animals know the things they were saying! Have you ever cast judgement on someone without knowing all the facts? Have you ever looked at someone who was going through a difficult time and thought "They deserve it." or "God must be punishing them."? Have you ever thought that you were better than someone else because you weren't going through a difficult time? Again I say, watch your attitude! We don't always know why God allows things to happen to people. We should never assume they are being punished for something! Nor should we assume we must be better than someone else because they are having a difficult time and we aren't. We need to reach out in love and see if there is anything we can do to help people who are going through difficult times because there WILL be a time when we will also go through difficulties. Sometimes all a person needs is someone to listen to them, or pray for them. If you aren't willing to do that for others, then there's a good chance others won't do it for you when you need it. Let's all try to watch our attitudes and make sure everything we do is done out of humility and love, without expecting anything in return.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

He is Faithful

Philippians 1:6 says "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to the day of completion in Christ Jesus." Do you ever feel inadequate? When a task is difficult, we often fear that either we won't be able to do it or we won't do it well enough. As a Christian, it is easy to feel that we can't possibly measure up to what God desires. We read verses in the Bible that say to be perfect, yet we know that is impossible because we are human beings and we can't possibly be perfect. This verse tells us that God is always working on us. He knows exactly what He wants to do in and through us. We shouldn't be afraid of getting in the way. He works in and through us in spite of all of our shortcomings! He will never stop working in you, so you shouldn't ever stop trying to do what He is calling you to do! There's a Steve Green song entitled "He Who Began a Good Work in You" and I automatically start singing it whenever I hear this verse. Here are the words:


He who began a good work in you
He who began a good work in you
Will be faithful to complete it
He'll be faithful to complete it
He who started the work
Will be faithful to complete it in you.


If the struggle you're facing
is slowing replacing
your hope with despair
Or the process is long
and you're losing your song
in the night
You can be sure
that the Lord has His hand on you
safe and secure
He will never abandon you
You are his treasure
and He finds His pleasure in you.

I John 5:12 says "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." Well, you can't put it more simply than that! If you have accepted Jesus into your heart, then you have eternal life. If you have not accepted Jesus into your heart, then you will not have eternal life with Him. In this crazy, unpredictable world, it is good to know that there is one thing we can count on: Jesus always keeps His promises! We can be assured that no matter what happens in this world, we will spend eternity with Him in heaven when we leave this earthly world. Do you have that assurance? Do you know where you'll be spending eternity? If not, ask Jesus into your heart and you will receive that assurance. If you are worried about things that may or may not happen here on earth, stop worrying and start trusting.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

With All Your Heart

Ephesians 6:7-8 says "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free." Do you find it hard to serve wholeheartedly? Sometimes the boss you work for makes it hard for you to want to work wholeheartedly. Sometimes you feel overworked, tired, or sick. No matter what we are doing, we are to do it wholeheartedly...with all our heart and do a thorough job each and every time. It's important to keep in mind that we aren't really serving man and working for him. We are serving God and doing the work He wants us to. So when you don't feel like going to work or are tempted to just do a half-hearted job, remember that God is who you are truly serving and do that job with your whole heart! This is true for your paid job as well as the job you may do in your church. Your ministry is just as important and we are to do that one wholeheartedly as well. I know there may be a Sunday when you just don't feel like doing your job/ministry, but it's important to remember that God always wants us to give 100% . We never know when God might use us to touch someone else's heart. Don't ever think that your ministry isn't important! We need to keep in mind that God sees everything and He will reward us one day for everything that we do. He knows our heart as well as what we are thinking. We need to have a good attitude. Sometimes that may mean asking God to help us to have a good and right attitude so we can do our job well. Don't let the stress of every day life take away your reward you'll get one day. Ask God every morning to help you serve Him wholeheartedly in everything you do that day.

Psalm 121:3 says "He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber." I am so thankful that God is always aware of what is going on. He never sleeps. He doesn't even take a short nap. He is always watching over us. There is nothing that comes our way that He doesn't know about. He is always right there with us, helping us as we walk through life. We don't have to worry about being tripped up by circumstances if we constantly look to Him and trust in what He tells us.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Imitation Please

Ephesians 5:1 says "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children." If you are a parent, you know how your children love to imitate you. It can be a real eye-opener when your child says something they hear you say! That's why it is so important as a parent to always watch what you say and do. We are God's children. He is our Father. If we love Him, we should imitate Him. You may be thinking "How do I imitate Him when I can't see or hear Him?" Look back at the verse. Do you see the word therefore in it? I've heard our pastor say many times, "When you see a therefore, stop and find out what it's there for." Go back and read Chapter 4 in Ephesians. It is full of verses that tell us things we should and should not be doing. If we follow the examples Paul gives us in that chapter of how God wants us to act and do them, then we will be imitators of God! When we love God, we want to make Him happy. We make Him happy when we obey Him and do what He wants us to do. The more we imitate God by speaking and behaving the way the Bible tells us to, the more we will become like Him.

I John 1:7 says "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin." God cannot be in the dark. He is light. If we want to be with Him and have fellowship with Him, we must live a life that is in alignment with Him. We can not be living in sin and claiming to be a Christian. That is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to non-Christians. They see people who want to claim they are Christians, yet they are living a life no different from their non-Christian friends. People need to see a difference in us. If we are imitating God and doing what He would do, there will be no confusion as to who we belong to. Make sure you let your light shine in the darkness.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Is That Possible?

Ephesians 4:2 says "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Chapter 4 of Ephesians is full of amazing verses. I think I need to come back to it, read one verse a day and journal about it. Many of the verses hit me right where I'm at because they talk about watching what you say and how you say it. Being patient and not getting angry are also covered. Verse 2 stood out the most to me today, probably because it was one of the first ones I read. The first thing I noticed was that it said to be COMPLETELY humble and gentle. My first thought was "That's impossible!". Then I thought of how much I need God's help to make me more humble, gentle, and patient. When I am frustrated or stressed, it can be far too easy to lose my temper and not "bear with one another in love". This whole verse makes me want to say OUCH! It definitely helped me to see my need to do better in this area. Thankfully, I know God will help me become a better person because I want to be more like Him and I am asking for His help. He will help you change too if you ask Him for help and you are willing to try and change.

Ephesians 1:18-19a says "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe." Wow. When we keep the eyes of our heart open, we will be able to see and focus on the hope that we have in Christ. We have an inheritance waiting for us. We have His incomparably great power at our disposal when we simply believe in Him. NOTHING is too difficult for Him! We need to keep these things in mind each and every day. We can not fail when we have God on our side. We are never alone. After reading this passage, go back to the first verse I talked about today. Is it possible to be completely humble and gentle? YES! We just need to tap into God's power to help us and keep our eyes focused on Him.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Get a New Perspective

Ephesians 3:12 says "In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." How awesome is it that we don't need to go through a priest to talk to God. Jesus died on the cross so that we are free to now go directly to God in prayer. We can be confident that He hears and will listen to us. We can also be confident that when we can't even utter the words, Jesus goes to His Father for us and intercedes on our behalf.

Luke 19:4 says "So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way."  I've heard about and read the story of Zacchaeus many times in my life, but this verse really made me think when I read it this morning. Zacchaeus was a short man, but he wasn't about to let that stop him from seeing Jesus. He couldn't see Jesus from where he was, so he climbed a tree. Jesus knew that Zacchaeus was there and called Him down. Zacchaeus met Jesus and his life was changed! Do I allow other things to block me from seeing Jesus? Do I do everything I can to keep my eyes on Him? There are times in life when things get really hard and it is hard to see Jesus. It is during those times that we need to "run ahead and climb a tree". To me, that means I need to think ahead and try to get a new perspective. What could God be trying to teach me? How is He going to use this in my life? Instead of blindly sitting there, I can do something to help myself remember that God never gives me more than I can handle. He is always there with me, even when I may not be able to see or feel Him. When we look back, we are usually able to see how He was there all along. So why do we need to wait until we make it through to see Him? If we try to see things from a different perspective, we may be able to see that Jesus really is there. Don't let things around you block you from seeing Him.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Renovation in Progress

Ephesians 2:22 says "And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by  His Spirit." When I read that verse, I had to smile as I thought of how God's Spirit dwells in me; but that His home (my body) is currently under renovation. I say this because as I've already mentioned, I've decided that this is the year that I begin the long overdue process of losing weight. Even though I know He loves me no matter how I look, I can't help but feel that He is going to enjoy the renovations that are made to His home. I know that God is constantly working on me spiritually. So, I'm under renovation both spiritually and physically!

As I read the Bible passage for today's devotional in Our Daily Bread, I was a bit dismayed that one particular verse didn't really stand out to me. I thought that maybe what I had written about in my journal after reading Ephesians wasn't really what God wanted me to learn. Then I read the devotional, and saw these words: "Christians understand their sinfulness and their need for continual spiritual restoration." I smiled as I realized that God really had been speaking to me about my renovation (or restoration). I think the song "He's Still Working on Me" sums it all up perfectly.

Verse 1:

There really ought to be a sign upon my heart,
Don't judge me yet, there's an unfinished part.
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master's loving hand.


He's still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars,
the sun and the earth, and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be. He's still working on me.

Verse 2:

In the mirror of His Word reflections that I see
Makes me wonder why He never gave up on me.
He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray
Remember He's the Potter, I'm the clay.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Bible: Read It and Learn

Ephesians 1:17 says "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better." When I read this verse, I realized that is exactly why I've changed how I do devotions. Before I begin reading the Bible, I pray for God to open my eyes and see what He wants me to see. As I read, I read slowly so that I can pay attention to when God speaks to me through a verse. I then write my thoughts in my journal. I do all this because I want to know Him better! Every day, He reveals something to me in the chapter I read. It's exciting to feel Him speaking and revealing new insights to me! What an amazing thing for Paul to pray for for the Ephesians! It made me realize that I could pray for others to be able to experience the same thing I've experienced in my devotions! If you don't journal, I strongly encourage you to try it! It's not difficult. What I write here on my blog is very similar to what I write in my journal. I almost always start by writing down the verse that stuck out at me. I then just write my thoughts on it. I have no doubt that the thoughts I'm having are what God wants me to think about and He is then able to reveal new things to me about verses I've read many times before.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." The Bible gives us everything we need to succeed in our Christian walk. It teaches and trains us so we know what we need to do and how to do it. It rebukes when we are doing something we shouldn't be doing. It corrects us if we need to watch how or what we are doing. We can use the Bible to teach, rebuke, correct, and train others. If you don't know what the Bible says, then how can you tell others what they should be doing? How do you know you are doing what you should? Instead of getting frustrated because you think God isn't helping or answering you, look in the Bible for the answers! It's all in there. You just need to read the Bible and you'll find all the help you need.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Don't Give Up

Galatians 6:9 says "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." This verse initially made me think of my New Year's Resolution to lose weight. If I get tired of trying and give up, I won't be successful in losing the weight I want to. It's not easy to lose weight, but there are lots of rewards if I don't give up: more energy, longer life, feel better, and better self image to name a few. The biggest reward for me would be if I became an inspiration to someone else to lose weight. I know how easy it is to be overweight and think "I could never lose weight." I want to be able to inspire people by letting them know it is never too late to lose weight and it is NOT impossible. It may be a long, slow, difficult process, but it is NOT impossible. The Christian life can also be long and difficult, but oh the rewards that await us if we don't give up!

John 21:22 says "Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'" I can almost hear Jesus emphasizing the word YOU must follow me when He said this to Peter. It can be easy to look at others and compare ourselves to how they look or what they have. Some people get upset when someone else's prayer gets answered, but they think their own prayer wasn't answered. We need to remember to keep our eyes on Jesus and not be looking at others. We need to not grow weary and give up because we are focused on other people or other things. We need to press on and earn those rewards for not giving up!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Who Are You Living For?

Galatians 5:16 says "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." This verse immediately made me think of how I still struggle with controlling my temper. I know that what I say when I lose my temper is not pleasing to the Lord, yet it can be a daily struggle when I have to deal with a strong-willed teenager. It could be easy to read this verse and think "WHY am I still struggling with this when I love the Lord and want to live for Him?!"

As I read further, I read what the acts of the sinful nature are as well as what the fruits of the Spirit are. It's easy to look at the acts of the sinful nature in verses 19 - 21 and find some that you never struggled with. There may be ones you know could be easy to struggle with, but you really don't have a problem overcoming the desire. One example I see is envy. Some people really struggle with that, while others don't really have a problem at all with not being envious. I think everyone can find at least one thing though on that list that you have either struggled with in the past or are currently struggling with. The fruits of the Spirit are listed in verses 22 and 23. Again, there may be some on that list that are easy for us to display, while others we struggle with. Patience and self-control are the two that I have the most trouble with. I use to think I was a very patient person, but then I had kids. I found it to be very hard to be patient when my child was talking back to me, arguing with me, disobeying me, or lying to me. Instead of dealing with it immediately in a calm but effective manner, I tried to get her to stop doing whatever it was she was doing without disciplining her immediately. I have since learned that if I don't immediately deal with the problem and the discipline that is needed, I allow myself to get more and more upset and that in turn leads me to lose my temper. Self control is much easier to have when I quickly and calmly deal with the problem and not allow it to grow. If I allow my daughter to continue to argue and talk back, then I get angry and start yelling and the whole thing escalates. Why would she quit arguing and yelling at me if I'm doing the same thing to her?

It's not easy to change. It's not easy, but it is not impossible either. Confess the area to God that you are struggling with. Ask Him to point out to you what you need to do to change. Be willing to do what He tells you! If you mess up, ask for His forgiveness and begin again. Never give up trying! Too many people have the attitude "That's just the way I am." Some even say "That's the way God made me." Yes, God made you; but we are born into sin. We need to confess our sins to God, ask for His forgiveness, and then change our ways so they are in line with His ways. He is ready and willing to help you make those changes, but you have to be willing to change and strong enough to realize that Satan will try to get you to fail. You need to remind him of what his future is and that his future is NOT going to be your future! It's never too late to change.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Slave or An Heir? It's Your Choice!

Galatians 4:7 says "You are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." Before Jesus came to earth to die for our sins, everyone was a slave to sin and to the law. After He died, He set us free from being a slave. We could now be called His son and therefore, we are heirs to all that God has. Why would anyone choose to still live as a slave? I for one am very thankful I don't need to follow all the religious laws they had to obey back in the time before Jesus came. I'm glad I don't need to sacrifice a lamb or do many of the other things they had to do! Jesus set me free from having to do that! It's a shame people who are living in sin don't realize that they are choosing to be slaves! We don't have to participate in those things. We are free from that. We can choose to follow Christ and be free! Yes, there are still rules we need to follow, but it is easy to follow those rules if you truly love Him. I'm excited to think of being an heir and one day seeing Jesus, walking streets of gold, living in a mansion, and singing praises to God in a place that knows no sadness, pain, or darkness. Is being a slave to sin and living the way you want here on earth really worth living eternally in Hell, in pain, misery, and darkness? I don't think so! Do you?

Psalm 146: 5-6 says "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them - the Lord, who remains faithful forever." I find it absolutely amazing to think that God, the One who made heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in those places, loves ME. He wants to help ME. He listens to ME. WOW! He will NEVER ignore me when I call upon Him. He will NEVER let me down. He will ALWAYS be there when I call upon Him and I can ALWAYS trust what He says is true because He is FOREVER faithful. Yes, I am truly blessed! I hope you are too!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Who's in Charge?

Galatians 3:3 says "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" In this chapter, Paul was scolding the Galatians for trying to follow all the Jewish laws instead of knowing that they were saved by grace, not by obeying all the strict laws. When Jesus died on the cross, He freed everyone from having to follow all those laws. We aren't saved because of our actions, we are saved by having faith in God and living for Him.

I got something else out of this verse. It is still very appropriate for us today! How often do we try to accomplish something on our own? Do we think God isn't able to help us? Do we think we are stronger than God? God is all powerful! He can do everything and He wants to help us! How foolish we are when we have the all powerful, all knowing God with us, and we ignore Him and try to do something ourselves! We need to remember to daily give everything to God and let Him help us!

Philippians 2:9-11 "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." I have read these verses before, but today they just gave me chills. Did you see it? At the sound of Jesus' name EVERY knee will bow: in heaven - the angels will bow, on earth - we will bow, and under the earth - Satan and his demons will bow!! Can you imagine that?! Seeing EVERYONE bowing down at just the sound of Jesus' name being said?! I can only imagine how much Satan and his demons will enjoy doing that! LOL! It also says EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. If bowing isn't enough, Satan then has to confess that Jesus is Lord! I can hardly wait to bow before Jesus and confess that He is Lord, but there are many others who won't be very happy. In that moment, they will realize that they made a huge mistake in not accepting Him into their hearts when they had the chance. These verses also made me think back to what I had learned from that verse in Galatians 3. If we are going to declare Jesus as Lord, we need to make sure He is the Lord of our life. If we are trying to do things on our own, then Jesus is NOT Lord in our life. We can't say He is Lord, but not give Him control of everything in our life. He deserves and needs to have 100% control. Only then is He truly Lord in your life. Does He have control in every area of your life? If not, give Him control. I know it can be very hard to think of giving up total control, but your life will go so much smoother when He is in control.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What Are You Looking At?

Galatians 2:6 says "As for those who seemed to be important - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance - those men added nothing to my message." Some people place a lot of importance on a person's job title. Some people will think less of those who hold lower positions. There are people who think they can only be associated with people who earn a certain amount of money. They look at what kind of car someone drives, the house they live in, and the clothes they wear and make a decision about that person's economic status. Does a person's job, their house, their car, or their clothes make them better than someone else? What about the color of a person's skin? There are people who believe white people are superior, or at the very least smarter, than black people. What about a person's nationality or their religion? There are people who afraid of anyone who comes from the Mideast because they think they are all terrorists. There are people who refuse to associate with anyone who doesn't believe the way they do. God doesn't look at our external appearance and judge us as ugly, dumb, poor, lazy, etc. He looks at our heart. He loves each and every person regardless of their economic or social status. We are all equal because we all need Jesus! What do you look at? Are you guilty of judging people based on their outward appearance? If so, ask God to help you see people the way He sees them. Don't be afraid to reach out to people who are different from you. You may be the one God uses to bring that person to Him.

Luke 15:2 says "But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'" The Pharisees and the teachers of the law thought they were better and more important than others because they followed all the laws. They too were guilty of looking at the outward appearance of people. Jesus knew that everyone needed Him. He knew that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law would judge Him because He reached out to "sinners", but He didn't care. He could see each person's heart and knew that everyone was a sinner. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law didn't think they were sinners. They didn't associate with people they felt were beneath them. They missed hearing the good news that Jesus had to share because they thought they were better than everyone else. They didn't want anyone telling them that they were wrong, imperfect, or a sinner! Let's not act like the Pharisees or the teachers of the law. We need to always remember that we are all sinners. Just because we have been forgiven does not make us better than those who are not saved. They need to know Jesus too. How will they hear about Him if we don't tell them?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Over the next 20 days, I'm going to be reading through Paul's letters in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. I will be reading one chapter a day in my devotional time and writing in my journal what I learn. I will then read the daily devotion in "Our Daily Bread". I'll read the Bible passage and write in my journal first, and will then read what the author for that day's devotional wrote. On my blog, I will share what God taught me in both passages I read during my devotional time.

Galatians 1:11-12 says, "I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." As most of you probably already know, Paul's name use to be Saul. He persecuted the Christian church and was responsible for many Christians being killed. One day as Saul was on his way to Damascus, he was blinded by a bright light and heard Jesus speak to him. That experience changed Saul's life! His name was changed to Paul and he began preaching the good news of Jesus. Most people become Christians because they attend church and hear someone preaching a sermon, or they are witnessed to by a friend. Paul was changed because Jesus spoke to him directly!

As I thought about these two verses, Jesus laid it on my heart that He was doing the same thing with me. Over the last 21 days, I really have been striving to learn what God wanted to teach me. I had slowed down in my Bible reading and really tried to listen to what God was saying. He was faithful each day to show me something in each passage I read. After I wrote what I felt God was saying to me in my journal, I would write about it here on my blog. I was sharing what God had revealed to me. In my own little way, I was acting a little bit like Paul! What I was learning each day wasn't coming from a sermon I was hearing or from a friend talking to me, it was coming right from Jesus Himself! What I wrote in my journal and on this blog were things that God had revealed to me and I in turn shared them here. I've had complete strangers find things I wrote on my blog so helpful that they left me a comment telling me about it. That has always meant so much to me because I truly felt that God was telling me what to write so that He could then lead someone else here who needed to read what I wrote. In my own little way, this blog is a way for me to minister to others.

I'm not saying you have to start a blog. What I do think is that each of us needs to find some way to reach out to others and share what God is doing in our lives. When God reveals something to you, don't keep it to yourself! SHARE IT! Don't be afraid of what others might think. You never know when something you say could change a person's life forever.

Psalm 73:23 says "Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand." That verse just seemed to leap right off the page when I read it. What an amazing thought! Today begins a new year. What better way to start it then to be reminded that every second of every day, I am always with God because God is always with me and He hold me by the hand as we walk together through the day. There is no situation I will face this year that God will not be right there with me. We will go through everything TOGETHER! No matter what you may face this year, remember that you don't need to be afraid. You are not alone! God is right there with you. Lean on Him when you need to. Keep pressing on and know you will make it because God will be right there beside you, holding your hand, and helping you through it.